18 February 2013

Nigeria: N20 Billion Interconnect Debts - Network Problem Looms As NCC Releases Policy

Lagos — The N20 billion interconnect debts which telecoms operators owe themselves may soon cause problems for their subscribers as they will find it difficult to make off-net calls if a new guidelines on debt recovery released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is anything to go by.

A recent NCC's guidelines had hinted on a possible disconnection of debtor operators from the operators they owe. But the commission said it would only interfere with conditions.

It said it shall not consider any disconnection request except there is a subsisting interconnects agreement between both parties duly filed with the Commission.

It also stated that while the interconnected operators were also expected to have accurate billing systems consistent with the standard and specifications determined by the Commission, "No operator is permitted to have a billing system that is not type-approved to ensure compliance with the standards and specifications as determined by the Commission."

As part of the conditions for the interconnection approval, it is expected that parties must have fully exhausted all the options contained in their interconnection agreements for resolving the dispute, billing or other interconnect debt issues in question.

"The Commission shall in granting approval for the disconnection of an operator be guided by the need to ensure that the interest of subscribers of the affected network is protected", it said.

The commission said it would only allow the disconnection of out-bound calls from a respondent's network, provided howsoever that in the case of disconnection on grounds of indebtedness that any revenue generated from the termination of calls on a debtor operators network will be specifically used to set off the level of indebtedness of the debtor operator.

"Other relevant issues to guide the decision of the Commission shall include the public interest in observing the rule of law and the need to entrench good corporate governance practices among operators," the NCC document said.

Meanwhile, analysts have observed that if approvals for disconnection of telecoms networks are granted by the regulator, subscribers on the affected network would to face hiccups in connecting with other networks.

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